The racist profit system has killed two black teenagers — Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, and Ramarley Graham in the Bronx, N.Y. — and 17 unnamed Afghan working-class civilians. These horrendous murders are nearly beyond comprehension. But the history of capitalism is the story of racist slaughter. These outrageous, cold-blooded killings prove it once again.
A racist vigilante — a self-appointed neighborhood watchdog — stalked Trayvon, 17, who was innocently walking to a friend’s house carrying only candy and soda. Trayvon was fatally shot, the vigilante said, because he was “suspicious” (see page 3 and 4). This “suspicion” was based solely on the fact that he was “walking while black” in a mostly white neighborhood. After local police stated that the killer, George Zimmerman, acted in self-defense, they let him walk free. Only working-class fury over the murder forced the temporary ouster of the Sanford police chief, whose force has a history of ignoring violent crimes against black residents. Only nationwide protests — and the threat of more militant action — forced the state and federal governments to launch their own belated investigations, a month after the fact.
But the power of racism cannot be underestimated. In a disgusting ploy to blame the victim, the bosses’ media have put out an unsubstantiated report that the unarmed Trayvon, who had no juvenile offender record, attacked his stalker before he was shot.
Ramarley Graham was confronted by a wolf pack of Bronx cops who said they “thought” he had a gun and chased him into his grandmother’s apartment on the “suspicion” that he possessed marijuana. Then they killed the unarmed 18-year-old outright (see page 3).
Beyond the official lies and cover-ups, here are the facts: The Ku Klux Klan in blue has put down two more young people as if they were animals. Two more families have been cheated of seeing their children live out their lives. These murders are crimes against the entire working class. We are all Trayvon Martin and Ramarley Graham.
Then there is the massacre of eight Afghan adults and nine sleeping children by a soldier trained as a killer by a U.S. imperialist war machine (see CHALLENGE, 3/28.) He left his base, went door-to-door to three villagers’ homes, shot the helpless people, and returned to his base. Then he went back to finish the job, callously burning the dead bodies.
But individual cops, those who want to act like cops, and “deranged” soldiers aren’t the main killers. It’s the unchecked racism of the capitalist system that breeds these atrocities against our class. They will continue and get worse, for one stark reason: The bosses benefit from racism.
Racism and Super-Profits
Racist wage differentials and mass unemployment reduce wages for all workers. By lowering family income for black and Latino workers as compared to white workers, the U.S. bosses net at least $300 billion annually. At the same time, the bosses are free to cut the wages of white workers by threatening to replace them with black and Latino workers. Racism hurts the entire working class.
The same division and exploitation holds true worldwide, and in many places is even more extreme. By attacking wages and working conditions for workers on six continents, the world’s capitalists reap trillions in super-profits.
Racist cop terror and racist mass imprisonment reduce the threat of urban rebellion, one of the bosses’ biggest fears. Racist segregation further weakens working-class unity and the ability to fight back. And racist dehumanization of “foreign enemies,” relentlessly hammered into GIs by the U.S. brass (see below), furnishes the “will to kill” needed by U.S. rulers to conduct their widening oil wars.
The crocodile tears shed by U.S. President Barack Obama and all his politician cohorts, black, Latino and white, are exposed by the racist system they represent. They use their hypocritical shows of sorrow to cover the racism that kills, kills, kills in wars worldwide.
The sharpening global competition between U.S. and rival imperialists is cutting into U.S. profit rates. As a result, the international working class is facing escalating racist attacks from U.S. bosses who are determined to boost their profits.
One such assault is the “new face of labor,” the ugly offspring of union bosses’ alliance with U.S. capitalists. In early March, AFL-CIO hacks trumpeted the unionization of a few car washers in Los Angeles. The “triumph” of $8-dollar-an-hour wages for the mostly Latino workers amounts to $16,000 a year, barely half the poverty threshold that makes a family of four eligible to receive free school lunches.
Then, following Obama’s bailout of GM and Chrysler, wages were “restructured” to pay new hires $14 an hour, half the pay of veteran workers. In another union “victory,” giant Caterpillar Inc. recently moved locomotive production from London, Ontario, which paid workers $30 an hour, to a new plant in Muncie, Indiana, which offered only $14 and far lower benefits. Big Auto’s sellout pacts, greased by Obama and George Bush, Jr., provided the precedent.
The racism in the auto industry is shown clearly in the U.S. southern states, where lower-paying contractors have infiltrated even the unionized factories. At auto parts plants, which are erected close by and sometimes within existing auto assembly plants, both black and white workers are paid as little as $8 an hour, barely above the minimum wage. Why have the auto bosses targeted the South? Because that’s where the ruling class has historically enforced intense Jim Crow racism, which busted unions and imposed the worst wages and dangerous conditions in the U.S. Again, racism leads the bosses to make billions in super-profits.
Stop, Frisk, Shoot, Jail
Beset by increasing foreign competition, mainly from China, U.S. industrialists have fewer manufacturing jobs to dole out. To control the disproportionately black and Latin unemployed, capitalists call out their killer cops. In New York City, multi-billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly staunchly defend their “stop-and-frisk” campaign against young black and Latino men. The racist policy hits nearly 750,000 young workers a year and can easily become stop-frisk-and-shoot, as Ramarley Graham’s killing shows.
Incarceration rates reflect the U.S. bosses’ heightening racist crackdown on increasingly jobless and alienated workers. After holding steady from the 1920s on (with a brief spike during the Great Depression), the number of those jailed or on probation or parole began to skyrocket in the 1970s. That was the period when U.S. rulers were rattled by defeat in Vietnam and challenges from Europe and Russia.
Before 1975, the norm for the number in custody was one million. Today, with U.S. control of the Middle East at severe risk and China rising, it’s five million. Black and Latino workers are seven times more likely to find themselves in custody than white workers.
In the name of patriotism and “national security,” Bloomberg and Kelly have extended this racism throughout the New York metropolitan region by spying on innocent Arab and South Asian workers, including Christian immigrants from Middle East countries. If we fail to fight racism against these groups, it will engulf our entire class.
GIs and Racist Brainwashing
The racist rampage in Afghanistan, shocking as it is, pales in body count compared to Obama-authorized night raids and air strikes that have wiped out thousands of innocent civilians. It reflects the deliberate racist indoctrination that U.S. military officers inflict on recruits to make them more efficient killers, pawns in the bosses’ push to consolidate oil-producing territory (see CHALLENGE, 3/28). Iraq War veteran Michael Prysner said:
When I first joined the army, we were told that racism no longer existed in the military....And then Sept. 11 happened. I began to hear new words like “towel head,” “camel jockey” and — the most disturbing — “sand n....r.” These words did not initially come from my fellow soldiers, but from my superiors — my platoon sergeant, my company first sergeant, my battalion commander. All the way up the chain of command, viciously racist terms were suddenly acceptable. (MichaelMoore.com, 12/26/09)
Now that they were no longer considered human, Iraqis became GIs’ targets in sick shooting sprees. It didn’t matter whether the Iraqis were armed or not; for dehumanized soldiers, it became a video game. “Point, Click, Kill,” chanted U.S. officers, according to Prysner. Unfortunately, Prysner, despite his opposition to the war-makers, has chosen the futile path of electoral politics. He ran for Congress for a class-collaborationist socialist party.
Racism cannot be voted out. Nor can it be separated from capitalism. Racism is the foundation of the profit system that gave it birth and depends on it for its existence. That is why the Progressive Labor Party champions the fight against racism and for multi-racial, working-class unity: It is essential for a communist revolution. We must continue and intensify our fight in the class struggle against the evil of racism in all of our organizations and among all of our friends, co-workers, neighbors and classmates. Only by winning masses to communist politics can we save our class from the profit system’s atrocities and construct a society that meets workers’ needs. Join PLP and help us build this world!
Capitalism Created Racism
Racism, a worldwide phenomenon, owes its creation to the first capitalist imperialists. Five centuries ago, it began with the Spanish and Portuguese, and later the Dutch, British and French, who used the notion of “superior” and “inferior” peoples to justify their colonization and exploitation of the New World. (Later, the capitalists threw in the equally racist concept of meaningless “ethnicity,” as in the British lords’ subjugation of “inferior” Irish workers.) The utterly unscientific concept of different “races,” and the phony hierarchy among them, served the colonizers by falsely justifying the importation of African slave labor to their New World plantations. In turn, the colonizers used slavery to exploit European-born workers in the one-step-away category of indentured servant. To this day, capitalists have continued to super-exploit some groups of workers to enable their exploitation of all.